Editorial other views

The following editorial published on July 20 in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.

It must be so tiring — and stressful — to be a dreamer.

To be, we mean, one of the young people enrolled in the Obama-era DACA program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — caught between here and there, trying to build a future in the only country they’ve ever known while Congress and courts play volleyball with their lives. These people, doing the best they can with limitations that would drive many crazy, deserve our respect and our admiration.

They also deserve some action from Congress. But it’s anyone’s guess when they’ll get it.

The latest plot twist in their drama occurred last week when a federal judge in Texas ruled that DACA was an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.” His ruling prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications to the program, which grants work permits and reprieves from deportation to the dreamers.

Despite his disfavor, the judge allowed its current recipients — over 600,000 — to keep their protected status. That’s something.

Congressional Democrats and advocates for immigrants called for the government to appeal the ruling, which Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) described as “cruel.”

President Joe Biden agreed, called the ruling “deeply disappointing” and saying the Department of Justice would appeal the decision “in order to preserve and fortify DACA.”

“While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future,” he said in a statement.

The ACLU and Google, one of many companies that employs DACA recipients, also disapproved of the ruling.

But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was among those who brought the case to court, tweeted that he “defeat(ed the) Biden Administration — AGAIN — on illegal immigration.”

At least we know what really matters to him, as he plays with these people’s lives.

To recap, “dreamers” is the short-hand name for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children. They grew up here, attending our schools, buying our goods, in some cases believing themselves to be U.S. citizens. In every sense but on paper, they’re Americans.

Almost 25,000 of them live in North Carolina.

The DACA program, created by then-President Barack Obama, allows them to remain here with no threat of deportation — in many instances, to countries in which they have no ties and don’t even know the language. To participate in DACA, they must contribute to society by working, attending college or serving in the military. They also must stay out of trouble with the law.

More than 90% of DACA recipients are employed and 45% are in school, according to a government study released last year. Many of them — one estimate is 30,000 — work in the health care industry and are currently helping to fight COVID-19.

Public sentiment favors them, as do a majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

But the DACA program itself has been under constant attack because, you know, Obama. The courts have kicked the program back and forth, sometimes affirming it, other times, undermining it.

Despite the overall agreement that dreamers deserve our support, Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on legislation to assure their permanent safety.

It’s not for lack of trying. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and our own Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have proposed legislation that would offer permanent legal status to current participants in DACA.

But Democrats want a broader agreement that would cover thousands more. In theory, this makes sense — more sense than having to reinvent the wheel for the next group of dreamers — but “sense” doesn’t always win in Congress.

Resolving this matter would be a win for Democrats and Republicans alike, proving to critics that they can cooperate for the good of the country. We hope the judge’s ruling will provide a little extra push.

It would also, of course, be a win for the dreamers, one that is long overdue. They deserve better from the country they love.

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